The Difference Between Osteopathy and Chiropractic

anatomy drawing of spineWhat is the Difference between Manual Osteopathy and Chiropractic?

Manual Osteopathy

Osteopathy was founded in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Still, an American physician. After loosing his entire family to meningitis, Dr. Still lost faith in then-current medical practices and began searching for ways to enhance homeostasis, or the body’s natural tendency toward health. Traditional Osteopathy is a holistic manual treatment modality strongly rooted in anatomy, physiology, embryology and neurology.

Paradigm of Health

An osteopathic practitioner first recognizes the health in each person then searches for ways to restore or enhance that health. Osteopathic practitioners holistically assess all tissues of the body in search for the root cause of an imbalance, based on the six main systems within the body.

1. Musculoskeletal System:

Includes bones, joints, and muscles. Osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT) is defined as high-velocity, low amplitude impulses. An osteopathic practitioner progressively accumulates all parameters of a restricted joint until the tissue creates a passageway through which a focused impulse restores the joint range of motion.

2. Fascial System

Includes the thin, continuous layer of tissue covering every structure in our body. Fascial release allows for better circulation and improved integrity for the overall body.

3. Fluid System

Includes the volume of our blood, lymph, interstitial, synovial and cerebrospinal fluids. The role of good circulation in health is one of the four founding tenants of Osteopathy.

4. Craniosacral System

Includes the bones, membranes, tissue and fluid of the head and spinal column. Craniosacral therapy normalizes the flow of the cranial rhythm throughout the body.

5. Visceral System

Includes the organs of our chest and abdomen. Visceral manipulation helps restore circulation and function of the organs.

6. Biodynamic System

Includes the electromagnetic energies that extend past our physical body. Biodynamic treatments boost vitality and integrate all the body systems.

Not a Symptom-Based Approach

Unless there has been an acute injury, where we have pain is not where the problem is – it is the last place that can no longer adapt to the primary problem. Osteopathic practitioners correct the primary dysfunction and clear the lesion imprint from all body systems. Once normalized, the painful compensation patterns resolve more easily.

Addresses our Internal Body

We used to think our skeleton created the structural framework that we built our body on. Through research in embryology, we now know it is the volume inside of us expanding outwards that creates our external musculoskeletal body. For example, it is the volume of our lungs expanding outward with each deep breath that shapes our ribcage. If we are shallow breathers, our ribcage starts to collapse inwards and we often end up with shoulder pain and dysfunction. 90% of our body is composed of the volume on the inside: our fascia, fluid, craniosacral and visceral systems. The external musculoskeletal framework only accounts for 10% of our total body. Most treatment modalities such as massage, physiotherapy and chiropractic, work on this external body. Manual osteopathy assesses and treats both the internal and external body.



Chiropractic was founded in 1895 by Daniel David Palmer, a Canadian entrepreneur. Palmer was an early student of Dr. Still’s at the American School of Osteopathy for approximately six weeks. It was here that Palmer studied the musculoskeletal techniques that he would later formulate into the discipline of Chiropractic. Chiropractic is also a manual modality focused on restoring homeostasis, and is strongly rooted in anatomy, neurology, biomechanics and orthopedics.

Symptom-Based Medicine

The strong drive in modern chiropractics to incorporate the medical model of evidence-based medicine has driven the focus toward segmenting the body and only treating the symptoms. Chiropractors assess and treat painful and restricted joints in order to normalize the nervous system. Chiropractic manipulation is defined as high-velocity, low amplitude (HVLA) adjustments employing a lever system. This means they administer a short but quick thrust through a restricted joint by using the mechanical advantage of levering another body part, such as an arm or leg.

Addresses our External Body

Chiropractic manipulative therapy focuses on restoring tone and range of motion of the muscles, joints and bones of the external musculoskeletal body.

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